Coffee with Milk

In America we say café au lait.  We got that from the French who also say this.  The Spanish say café con leche; the Portuguese say café com leite.  In Poland they say ‘white coffee’ or kawa biała.  In Germany it is Milchkaffee meaning ‘milk coffee’.  The outliers here are the Dutch who call the innocent mixing of coffee and milk koffie verkeerd, or ‘wrong coffee’.  Perhaps this bias against adding milk to coffee comes from their tradition of not adding milk to tea either.  Who knows?

M&Ms

Forest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie were the creators of the M&M.  The idea was inspired by the Spanish Civil War soldiers who snacked on chocolates with hard candy shells which allowed the treats to travel easier in the heat.

The first M&M’s went into production in Newark, NJ in 1941.  Forest Mars was the son of the founder of the Mars Company, and Murrie was the son of a Hershey president.  And that’s the rest of the story.

Holy Moly!?

The only moly I knew before moly was mole, the chocolate and chile sauce prolific in Puebla and throughout Mexico and the Southwest US. I thought the phrase ‘holy moly/mole!’ must have come from that mole since the folk history of mole involves archbishops, angels and nuns.

But if you also thought this you would be wrong!  The real moly is a plant mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. As you can see from this quote they though of moly as quite holy indeed, “The root was black, while the flower was as white as milk; the gods call it Moly, Dangerous for a mortal man to pluck from the soil, but not for the deathless gods. All lies within their power.”

 Today, the identification of moly is debated, but many people think that it is the Snowdrop flower.  

Quote of the week

‘Before judging a thin man, one must get some information. Perhaps he was once fat.’

Fernand Point

Croquembouche

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Perhaps you’ve heard the French phrase “firme la bouche” which translates to “shut your mouth”.  What is the pastry “croquembouche” then?  A croquembouche is a tower of profiteroles piled in the shape of a pyramid and stuck together with hard caramel and decorated with spun sugar.

This decorative pastry was invented by perhaps the most famous chef to ever live, Antonin Careme.  He first created this pastry tower that has adorned tables in France through many holidays and celebrations.  The phrase croquembouche literally means ‘crunch in the mouth’.  And this accurately reflects the very crunchy dessert, in fact ‘broken tooth in the mouth’ may be a better description.  Something about that though just isn’t terribly appetizing.

Vive la croquembouche!

Ps.

I will also bring up the famous French sandwiches the croque-madame and the croque-monsieur.  The croque here refers to the crunchy bread because they are both toasted.

Say Cheese!

How to get people to smile for a photo in different countries:

America – say cheese!

Japan – say cheese! (chiizu)

Egypt – say apple! (sib)

China – say eggplant! (qiezi)

Mexico – say whiskey!

Denmark – say orange! (appelsin)

Thailand – say Pepsi!

Germany – say spaghetti! or say cheesecake! (Kaesekuchen)

Once

In Chile they don’t eat dinner…they eat ‘once’ (pronounced own-say).  This of course means eleven in Spanish, but what is not as obvious is why Chileans don’t ‘comer cena‘, like other Latin Americans, but ‘tomar once’.

The practice comes from the British settlers that abounded in Chile during the 1800’s.  In this time Chile was a large exporter of salt peter, a key ingredient in fertilizer and gun powder.  The British influence on the Chileans is still evident.  Chileans drink tea religiously accompanied by light cold foods like bread, meats, cheeses, etc.

The British will take a similar snack at around 11am called elevenses.  This is were the Chileans learned their word from, but have moved the meal to the evening, completely detaching it from its original meaning.

Earl Grey Tea

Who is the Earl of Earl Grey tea?  Why does he have a tea named after him?  And what makes it Earl Grey anyway?

Earl Grey tea is a regular black tea scented with oil of bergamot.  Bergamot orange, the source of oil of bergamot is a pungent fruit, and not technically an orange but about the size of one.  It has a lemon color, but is less palatable.  It is never used for its juice, sometimes is made into marmalade, but most commonly used for its essential oil.

The practice of adding bergamot oil to tea began as an attempt to disguise average quality teas as finer teas.  At first people were appalled by the practice, even taking businesses to court for falsifying the quality of teas.  But pragmatism prevailed, and the British decided that they liked the flavor; soon teas were actually touted as containing bergamot oil.

The Earl that eventually became so closely associated with the tea was Earl Charles Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830’s.  He abolished slavery in the British Empire during his stay in office.  But his persisting history is a confusing tie to this tea.  Did he like the tea?  Was it merely an affirmation of his political power? No one knows.

Quote of the Week

Fettucini alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults.
– Mitch Hedberg

Thousand island

The Thousand Islands is a river archipelago in the Lawrence river between Canada and the US. The dressing was popularized by the Waldorf Astoria when the owner instructed the maître d’hôtel to make it. He was introduced to it on a river trip.

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